Next

ONLINE BOOKS > HIND SWARAJ OR INDIAN HOME RULE Preface to the new Edition
 

Preface to the New Edition

In issuing this new edition of Hind Swaraj it may not be inappropriate to publish the following that I wrote in the Harijan in connection of the Hind Swaraj number of the Aryan Path. Though Gandhiji's views as expressed in the first edition of Hind Swaraj have remained in substance unchanged, they have gone through a necessary evolution. My article copied below throws sonic light on this evolution. The proof copy of this edition has been revised by numerous friends to whom I am deeply indebted.

Wardha,11-12-38                                                                                                 -M. D.]


An Important Publication

Unique in its conception and beautifully successful in its execution is the Special Hind Swaraj Number of the Aryan Path. It owes its appearance mainly to the devoted labors of that gifted sister Shrimati Sophia Wadia who sent copies of Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule) to numerous friends abroad and invited the most prominent of them to express their views on the book. She had herself devoted special articles to the book and seen in it the hope for future India, but she wanted the European thinkers and writers to say that it had in it the potency to help even Europe out of its chaos, and therefore she thought of this plan. The result is remarkable. The special number contains articles by Professor Soddy, G. D. H. Cole, C. Delisle Burns, John Middleton Murry, J. D. Beresford, Hugh Fausset, Claude Houghton, Gerald Heard and Irene Rathbone. Some of these are of course well-known pacifists and socialists. One wonders what the number would have been like, if ;t had included in it articles by non-pacifist and non-socialist writers! The articles are so arranged "that adverse criticisms and objections raised in earlier articles are mostly answered in subsequent ones". But there are one or two criticisms which have been made practically by all the writers. and it would be worth while considering them here. There, are certain things which it would be well to recognize at once. Thus Professor Soddy remarks that, having just returned from a visit to India, he saw little outwardly to suggest that the doctrine inculcated in the book had attained any considerable measure of success. That is quite true. Equally true is Mr. G. D. H. Cole's remark that though Gandhiji is "as near as a man can be to Swaraj in a purely personal sense," "he has never solved, to his own satisfaction, the other problem-that of finding terms of collaboration that could span the gulf between man and man, between acting alone and helping others to act in accordance with their lights, which involves acting with then and as one of them-being at once one's self and someone else. someone one's self can and must regard and criticize and attempt to value." Also as John Middleton Murry says. "the efficacy of non-violence is quickly exhausted when used as a mere technique of political pressure",-when the question arises. 'Is non-violence fante de mieux, really non-violence at all?' But the whole process is one of endless evolution. In working for the end. man also works for perfecting the means. The principle of non-violence and love was enunciated by Buddha and Christ centuries ago. It has been applied through these centuries by individual people with success or. small clear-cut issues. As it has been recognized, and as Gerald Heard has pointed out. "the world-wide and age-long interest of Mr. Gandhi's experiment lies in the fact that he has attempted to make the method work in what may he called the wholesale or national scale." The difficulties of that application are obvious. but Gandhiji trusts that they are not insurmountable. The experiment seemed impossible in India in 1921 and had to he abandoned. but what was then impossible became possible in 1930. Even now the question often arises: 'What is a nonviolent means?' It will take long practice to standardize the meaning and content of this term. But the niters thereof is self-purification and more self-purification. What Western thinkers often lose sight of is that the fundamental condition of non-violence is love and pure unselfish love is impossible without unsullied purification purity of mind and body.


The Attack on Machinery and Civilization

What is a common feature of all the other appreciative reviews of the book is in the reviewers' opinion Gandhiji's unwarranted condemnation of machinery. "He forgets in the urgency of his vision," says Middleton Murry "that the very spinning wheel he loves is also a machine, and also unnatural. On his principles it should be abolished." "This," says Prof. Delisle Burns, "is a fundamental philosophical error. It implies that we are to regard as morally evil any instrument which may be misused. But even the spinning wheel is a machine; and spectacles on the nose are mere mechanisms for 'bodily' eyesight. The plough is a machine; and the very earliest mechanisms for drawing water are themselves only the later survivals of perhaps ten thousand years of human effort to improve the lives of men .... Any mechanism may be misused., but if it is, the moral evil is in the man who misuses it, not in the mechanism,." I must confess that in "the urgency of his vision" Gandhiji has used rather crude language about machinery, which if he were revising the book he would himself alter. For I am sure Gandhiji would accept all the statements I have quoted here, and he has never attributed to mechanisms moral qualities which belong to the men who use them. Thus in I924 he used language which is reminiscent of the two writers I have just quoted. I shall reproduce a dialogue that took place in Delhi. Replying to a question whether he was against all machinery, Gandhiji said:

"How can I be when I know that even this body is a most delicate piece of machinery? The spinning wheel is a machine., a little toothpick is a machine. What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such. The craze is for what they call labor saving machinery. Men go on saving labor till thousands are without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation. I want to save time and labor not for a fraction of mankind but for all. I want the concentration of wealth. not in the hands of a few, but in the hands of all. Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labor, but greed. It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might .... The supreme consideration is man. The machine should not tend to atrophy the limbs of man. For instance, I would make intelligent exceptions. Take the case of the Singer's Sewing Machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented, and there is a romance about the device itself."

"But." asked the questioner, "there would have to be a factory for making these sewing machines, and it would have to contain power-driven machinery of ordinary type."

"Yes," said Gandhiji., in reply. "But I am socialist enough to say that such factories should be nationalized. State-control- led .... The saving of the labor of the individual should be the object ' and not human greed the motive. Thus, for instance. I would welcome any day a machine to straighten crooked spindles. Not that blacksmiths will 'cease to make spindles; they will continue to provide spindles but when the spindle goes wrong every spinner will have a machine to get it straight. Therefore replace greed by love and everything will be all right."

"But" said the questioner, "if you make an exception of the Singer's Sewing Machine and your spindle, where would these exceptions end?"

"Just where they cease to help the individual and encroach upon his individuality. The machine should not be allowed to cripple the limbs of man."

"But, ideally, would you rule out all machinery? When you except the sewing machine, you will have to make exceptions of the bicycle, the motor car, etc."

"No, I don't," he said, "because they do not satisfy any of the primary wants of man; for it is not the primary need of man to traverse distances with the rapidity of a motor car. The needle on the contrary happens to be an essential thing in life, a primary need.

But he added: "Ideally, I would rule out all machinery, even as I would reject this very body, which is not helpful to salvation and seek the absolute liberation of the soul. From that point of view I would reject all machinery, but machines will remain because, like the body, they are inevitable. The body itself, as I told you, is the purest piece of mechanism; but if it is a hindrance to the highest flights of the soul, it has to be rejected."

I do not think any of the critics would be in fundamental disagreement with this position. The machine is, like the body, useful if and only to the extent that it submerges the growth of the soul.

Similarly about Western civilization Mr. 0. D. H. Cole counters the proposition that "Western civilization is of sharp necessity at enmity with the human soul".. "I say that the horrors of Spa 'in and Abyssinia, the perpetual fear that hangs over us, the destitution in the 'midst of potential plenty, are defects, grave defects, of our Western civilization but are not of its very essence .... I do not say that we shall mend this civilization of ours., but I do not believe it to be past mending. I do riot believe that it rests upon a sheer denial of what is necessary to the human soul." Quite so, and the defects Gandhiji pointed out were not inherent defects, but the defects of its tendencies. and Gandhiji's object in the book was to contrast the tendencies of the Indian civilization with those of the Western. Gandhiji would wholly agree with G. D. H. Cole that Western civilization is not past mending, also that the West will need a "Home Rule" after the fashion of the West, and also conceived by "leaders who are masters of themselves, as Gandhi is, but masters after our Western fashion. which is not his, or India's."


Limitations of the Doctrine

G. D. H. Cole has put the following poser: "Is it so when German and Italian airmen are massacring the Spanish people, when Japanese airmen are slaughtering thousands upon thousands in Chinese cities when German armies have marched into Austria and are threatening to march to march into Czechoslovakia, when Abyssinia has been bloodily bombed into defeat? Until two years or so ago, I believed myself opposed to war and death-dealing violence under all circumstances. But today, hating war, I would risk war to stop these horrors." How acute is the struggle within himself is apparent from the sentences that follow: " I would risk war; and yet, even now, that second self of mine shrinks back appalled at the thought of killing a man. Personally, I would much sooner die than kill. But may it not be my duty to try to kill rather than to die? Gandhi might answer that no such dilemma could confront a man who had achieved his personal Swaraj. I do not claim to have achieved mine; but I am unconvinced that the dilemma would confront me, here and now in Western Europe, less disturbingly if I had."

Occasions like those Mr. Cole has mentioned test one's faith, but the answer has been given by Gandhiji more than once, though he has not completely achieved his Swaraj, for the simple reason that for him Swaraj is incomplete so long as his fellow-beings are bereft of it. But he lives in faith, and the faith in non-violence does not begin to shake at the mention of Italian or Japanese barbarities. For violence breeds the results of violence, and once you start the game there is no limit to be drawn. Philip Mumford in the War Resister has replied as follows to a Chinese friend urging action on behalf of China:

"Your enemy is the Japanese Government and not the Japanese peasants and soldiers-unfortunate and uneducated people who do not even know why they are being asked to fight. Yet, if you use ordinary military methods of defeating your country, it is these guiltless people who are not your real enemies whom you must kill. If only China would try and preserve herself by the non-violent tactics used by Gandhiji in India, tactics which are indeed far more in accordance with the teachings of her great religious leaders, she would, I venture to say, be far more successful than she will by copying the militarist methods of Europe .... Surely it is a lesson to mankind in general that the Chinese, the most pacific people on earth, have preserved themselves and their civilization for a longer period in history than any of the warlike races. Please do not think we do not honor those gallant Chinese who are fighting in defense of their country. We honor their sacrifice and recognize that they hold different principles from ourselves. None the less we believe that killing is evil in all circumstances and out of it good cannot come. Pacifism will not spare you from all suffering, but in the long run, it is, I believe, a more effective weapon against the would-be conqueror than all your fighting forces, and what is most important, it will keep alive the ideals of your race.

"Miss Irene Rathbone poses a similar question: "What human being on this earth. normal or saint-like, can endure that small boys and girls should perish if, by bowing to the tyrant and denying his own conscience, he can save them? That question Gandhi does not answer. He does not even pose it.. . . Christ is clearer.. . . Here are his words: 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better that millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea'. . . . Christ is a greater help to us than Gandhi.. . ." I do not think Christ's words express anything more than his wrath, and the action suggested is not by way of punishment to be. imposed by another on the offender, but one to be imposed on himself by himself. And is Miss Rathbone sure that she can, by using what she supposes to be Christ's method, save the child" She is wrong in thinking that Gandhiji has not posed the question. He has posed it and answered it emphatically, as it was posed and answered in action by those immortal Muslim martyrs I300 years ago who suffered women and children to die of hunger and thirst rather than how to the tyrant and deny their own conscience. For. in bowing to the tyrant and denying your own conscience, you Encourage the tyrant to perpetrate further horrors.

But even Miss Irene Rathbone calls Hind Swaraj "an enormously powerful book", and says that by virtue of it she has found "myself forced by its tremendous honesty to search my own honesty. I would implore people to read it."

The editors of the Aryan Path have done a distinct service to the cause of peace and non-violence by issuing their Hind Swaraj Special Number.